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Opinion column: Restoring three separate but equal branches of government

Modified: Thursday, Feb 28th, 2013

The founders of our American Republic deliberately designed a federal government with three separate but equal branches; the legislative branch to pass laws, the executive branch to enforce laws and the judicial branch to interpret and review laws. Through a system of checks and balances, the founders sought to prevent any one branch of government from having too much power.

During the past several decades, however, Congresses and administrations from both parties have expanded the power and scope of the executive branch at the expense of the legislative branch. The Obama Administration, in particular, has shown willingness to skew the balance of power by overreaching its authority.

Rather than respecting the constitutional separation of powers, President Obama has used selective enforcement of the law and new regulations to promote his agenda. Without the consent of Congress, the president has issued executive orders on issues ranging from immigration, environmental law, marriage, health care, gun control and more.

The president’s executive branch agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), continue to implement thousands of new and ever-changing regulations. Moreover, the administration is expected to announce a wide range of new regulations on health care, financial services and the environment in the next year.

Many of these and other regulations could have a significant impact on the economy, and yet Congress will not have a chance to review these proposals before they are enforced on American families and small businesses.

Speaking about new environmental restrictions during this year’s State of the Union Address, the president stated, “But if Congress won’t act soon … I will.” This blatant disregard for the role of Congress is detrimental to our founding principles, the legislative process and to the idea of representative democracy.

To reestablish the balance of power and Congressional responsibility for the legislative process, I have worked with my House colleagues to stop overreach by the White House and to propose serious regulatory reforms.

I am an original co-sponsor of the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, which was recently introduced for the 113th Congress by Congressman Todd Young (R-Ind.). The REINS Act would require new regulations with an annual economic impact of more than $100 million to be approved by a stand-alone vote in Congress and signed by the president before they are enforced.

This commonsense legislation would give Congress the authority to review the new regulations with the largest impact on our economy before they take effect and would therefore ensure the executive branch is implementing law as intended by the legislative branch.

We must continue to be vigilant against abuses of power and to promote the three separate but equal branches of government as intended by our founders. Enacting the REINS Act would be a major step in restoring the balance of power in Washington.

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